Taj Weekes: A ‘Pariah In Transit’
If you are not aware of St. Lucia’s Taj Weekes, or if you have never heard his music and his message, please crawl out from under the rock and listen up. Tagging him as a St. Lucian artist is not really fair. In fact, he is an international reggae singer and performer whose music and message is something reggae fans of every persuasion enjoy. Taj has a phenomenal new album out titled Pariah In Transit and I sat down with him recently to discuss his music, his message, and he speaks with an honesty and clarity that is unapologetic and refreshing.
Taj many thanks for the opportunity to speak with you about your music. It is my pleasure to talk about and promote your conscious music at WORLD-A-REGGAE.
Your brand new album is titled Pariah In Transit. Talk a little bit about that title. Do you feel like a pariah in this reggae industry because you are not from Jamaica, but instead from St. Lucia?
“The title of the album describes our exact feelings. We the non Jamaicans have become Pariahs by default, just by not being born in a particular place…..I almost feel like we always have to prove ourselves over and over and get the silly question asked all the time as to why reggae?….like we were stealing a particular music…..It’s amazing how it’s thought that we should only be consumers and not producers of the music ….or that no one else can do it as well…far worse better ….and its also sad how some believe that they are great musicians just by virtue of being Jamaican or having Jamaican parentage and that no matter how we try you can never do it as good…….so we work twice hard for half the adulation ….Yes we are Pariahs in Transit…”
The entire industry has undergone a paradigm shift over the past 5-10 years in that the best roots reggae music is being produced and recorded outside of Jamaica. Only recently, within the past year or two, have conscious Jamaican roots singers found a voice with artists like Protoje and Chronixx. Do you agree with this assessment? Why do you think Jamaica has gone astray?
“Well I wouldn’t say Jamaica has gone astray and I wouldn’t necessarily agree that the roots resurgence started just 2 years ago. …What i would say is that after the people who control the industry realized the decline in their dollars because of the negativity attached to a particular brand of the music they decided to go run back over to the root. The positive root…..the root the started it all and brought it to prominence……again good reggae was being produced out of Jamaica for quite some time but the radio people decided not to pay attention and disregard the elephant in the room. One of the problems that reggae on the whole faces, not just Jamaican reggae is that a lot of the radio disc jockey are Jamaican and they only play music from their country…The other type of DJ is the older brothers… Jamaican and non-Jamaican who are stuck in the seventies and won’t look forward to embrace the new roots (from all over the world)….and then there are the new and younger radio personalities who are just that – radio personalities with no idea of the music and only play one brand and few artist in dancehall over and over….and then there is PAYOLA and its consequence….MEDIOCRITY.”
Bob Marley and the Wailers introduced reggae to the radio airwaves 40 years ago this year. Yet there is still a reluctance, almost a refusal, to play reggae music on the radio, especially here in the US. Why do you think this is the case?
“I think we should have stayed the course…the course of the root music, that’s what made it great and to this day it is that style that still carries the music….we pandered to the industry and followed instead of leading and it all came crash…one also has to remember the Wailers got some airplay, not all that much, but yet the music grew solely on it own merit and power….we have to return to the root, not just musically but message wise.”
The music business has been flipped upside down, sideways, and every other which way with the digital revolution. Talk about the drawbacks and some of the positives of this new medium where as an artist you can deliver your music and message directly to the fans
“Like everything else the digital revolution has its ups and downs, in as much as it’s given the ‘little man a chance it has also brought with it a lot of mediocrity and clutter. It is has opened up the flood gates for everyone and made it not as far fetched to become a professional musician because it kinda created a (virtual) equal playing…..but it’s also made musicians of everyone with a computer, a keyboard and a mic.”
How important is social media in your continued success as a reggae artist?
“All types are media are important to the success of any artist and social media is the order of the day….. it’s made dreams into reality…it’s open mic night of the week every day a chance to put it out to the world and let them discover, not to just five record execs playing god.”
Is there any artist out there now that you really feel?
“No not really.”
I feel that reggae is really close to becoming more mainstream, especially in Europe. Talk about the difference between the reggae fans in Europe vs. the US, where reggae still struggles to be heard.
“The difference in the fan is the difference in the radio station the media outlet and the newspapers and the magazine, the festivals that cover and expose our genre of music….In Europe again its more roots more of a listening that a ‘riddim driven audience and it think that is the main difference in the fans across those borders”
Tell us a little bit about your humanitarian work and about the importance of being involved with the world as a citizen.
“I think it necessary to be our brothers keeper. Until that mentality covers the earth there will always be hunger, need and war. We need less radio revolutionaries by that I mean the folks who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. This is what this music is and was about the love for fellow man…..’ a rhythm to a poor man’s cry. That is the mentality we carry with us and that is why we have www.theyoftencryoutreach.org (TOCO) our charity to help a little and make a little change.”
Today marks the 50th anniversary of MLK’s March on Washington here in the US and his historic “I Have A Dream” speech. Do you have any thoughts on the importance of his words, of that day, August 28, 1963 and what it means for African Americans and blacks all over the world?
“It is important because realities are built from dreams and what a bold dream to have in such a nightmarish time. I tend to think of it more as a vision than a dream and what incredible changes that vision has brought about. Though there is always work to be done but important strides have been taken…there is not one ‘whites only’ or ‘colored only’ public signs anywhere in America and even though segregationist thoughts may linger it’s no longer the law. It’s changed the power and perception of a people the world over and given courage and hope to all who are downtrodden.”
Where can the people catch your one-of-a-kind show over the next several months?
“Well we are in Europe in September and October and forward to the States in November but to get a better picture of where we will be info can be found on our site at www.tajweekes.com”